Friday, June 28, 2013

One Breakfast, Every Breakfast

I always try to look back and see how it started. For some reason, I think I can look back and find a point where something could have been different. 

This is not a lifetime story, but an every day, at least once a day story. 

Today, I heard Steve and Sally chatting in the kitchen while I was getting dressed in my bathroom. Soon after, I hear the bickering that includes Chaucer. 

It’s often the girls screams that get to me. Although I know deep down that they are struggling like Steve and I are struggling. What do I do when he walks by and hits me? I know its not hard; it doesn’t hurt.  It is aggravating and annoying, not abusive. What do I do when he snatches my cereal bowl? 

With us parents, he isn’t as physical.  It’s directed elsewhere. Kicking the counter as he sits on the stool.  We try to ignore it. But he does it louder and faster and louder and faster and LOUDER AND FASTER AND LOUDER AND FASTER AND LOUDER AND FASTER until we can’t ignore it and ask him to stop. And he will stop because I don’t think he really wants to be doing it.  And he really isn’t trying to be annoying.  

After he has stopped for about a minute, he will start tapping his cereal bowl with his spoon. First he taps the bowl, then the counter, then the cereal box. We are trying to ignore it, because it really isn’t that bad, and we don’t want to constantly be negative. But then it gets to be louder and faster and he’s tapping more things and wiggling his body and he just can’t stop and the milk ends up spilled all over the counter. 

So there is fussing about that and telling him to JUST BE STILL.  He is up because the milk is on the chair and walking around the room eating bites. We tell him to sit down and he sits down but forgets thirty seconds later and is trying to eat part of his breakfast while he is walking the top of the back of the couch as if on a high wire. He hasn’t eaten much, he is barely at an acceptable weight and soon his medicine will kick in. 

The medicine that will calm him. The medicine that will help him control his body.  The ironical (is that a word) medicine that is a stimulant, yet slows our boy to a normal speed. The medicine that we fret about giving him, wondering what the long term affects will be.  The medicine that makes him not hungry. The medicine that makes him go all day without eating.

His attention deficit disorder also makes him not able to read his body signals, which affects everything from eating to running to talking. So at some point, our happy boy turns instantly into a starving, crabby, not functioning human being because he hasn’t had anything to eat. 

With his medicine, he is successful at home and at school.  He doesn’t get yelled at, fussed at, and most interactions are positive and he is able to be the person he wants to be for about 6-8 hours. He has dyslexia, and school is not his strong suit, so this medicine is nearly a miracle in this sense. 

He is very physical, and very athletic.  His medicine slows him down, makes his reactions slower. This is not a bonus in the sports arena. Except it helps him focus, and stay in the game. 

He doesn’t like his medicine.  Not because of how it makes him feel, but because he knows we don’t like to give it to him.  He knows we are torn; we wish he didn’t need it. He wants us to be proud of him.  He wants to please us.  He senses that it is a bad thing to need this medicine. 

At a conference we attended yesterday, my eyes welled with tears at what my child is going through.  He wants to feel normal. He wants to settle down.  He wants to do well.  He doesn’t want to have a million negative interactions.  From what I understand, the serotonin (I think) needs to get from cell to cell to help us make good decisions, to help our brain function fully, to help us concentrate. In the ADHD brain, the serotonin can not make this transfer.  That is why stimulants help.  They stimulate the chemicals in the brain to make this transfer from cell to cell faster, which in turns make them able to make better judgements and stay focused. He literally needs stimulating to slow down. 

So when he is jumping, or kicking his foot on the counter, or tapping things, or chanting...... he is literally trying to jump start his body.  He is not trying to be annoying.  He doesn’t understand what is going on. 

So, back to him now not sitting at breakfast.  He has had several admonitions already and he hasn’t been up 15 minutes. He is upset and says he doesn’t want to eat. This happens many mornings.  His Dad is telling him he needs to eat.  He is a very little guy, and we know  he wont eat the rest of the day. They get into power struggles nearly every morning. 

If we give him his medicine before breakfast, he won’t eat at all.  The alternative is these struggles every morning. For several months, we had him sit at the table by himself to eat breakfast, away from the girls.  This seemed to work better for everyone, until I was talking with him one night in bed and he told me how much it hurts him not to be able to just sit and have breakfast with his family before he goes to school. He feels punished and isolated. 

I often feel like a terrible parent who can’t control her kids.  I have tried so many things. Somehow I need to change my attitude. I need to accept we have a different family and are fighting different challenges than most.  I am embarrassed that we can’t sit down and have a meal even though our kids are 12, 10, and 8. I need to let go of what others think. Almost every meal is a struggle and a negative, barking experience. 

My husband and I went to a talk on ADHD and executive function. They talked a lot about the make up of the brain and the things that didn't happen with ADHD - like self talk, and the synapses that didn't transfer from one cell to the other to help make less impulsive decisions and that adhd brains had normal feelings but not normal responses and other stuff like this. What we really wanted to know was how to keep Chaucer from dropping his dirty socks on his sisters breakfast plates and how to make sure he had shoes on by the time he got to school and how to teach him the difference between his backpack and a garbage can and how to walk past another person without trying to trip them.

I tried to google ADHD and always get descriptions and symptoms or technical brainy information.  Today I was searching for anecdotal experiences that might sooth my aching heart.  I couldn’t find any, so I sat down to write one of my own. I am having trouble closing this out.  There is no redemption here, no solutions. Just an ever present desire to help my family and my children. I take a minute to breathe deeply and show gratitude for our family. These challenges are better than walking through the world alone.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Searching for a Balance of Truth and Hope

Lindsey wrote an interesting, heartfelt essay about perceptions, misconceptions, and assumptions. Some comments were supportive, others enlightening. One stood out to me. It said something along the lines of why would we want to read about all the grueling crap (her words were more eloquent than this) - we already have this in our lives and don’t need to read more - its neither lovely nor inspiring to read. 

I remember a discussion years ago about Billy Joel’s song “Goodnight Saigon.” It never became a big hit in the United States or England, despite the powerful emotions it evoked. They were painful, too much of a harsh reality.  

In a writing class, the teacher gave some advice to a classmate. “You have had some bad things happen to you, but you can’t vomit on your readers.  They have had bad things happen to them as well. You must provide some sort of resolution or they will leave.” 

A therapist once told me that those that have harmed you must have a way out. There always has to be a way for them to make amends to you, just as there has to be a way for you to make amends to those you hurt.  There must be a way to move forward or everyone is stuck.

We all need hope.  We all need balance, and are constantly searching for it. We choose who we read. I try to choose writers that offer the right balance of truth and hope and light for me.

Herein lies one of the paradoxes in most writing: You can not tell the whole truth if you want to get to the real truth. I consider truth to be infinite.  Truth is relative and multi dimensional. In the written word, it is about the writer and the reader and their own previous experiences. I can write the sky is a beautiful blue that is a replica of my daughters eyes. You may look at the sky and realize its the color of your fathers eyes and may take you down a road of wonderful memories.  I have chosen the truthful path of a pleasant connection I have made. 

Just because I didn’t tell you that the blue is also the color of the water that a dear friend drowned in a few years ago doesn’t mean it isn’t there and I didn’t think about it. I might tell you about it later, and I might not. Short essay writing, blog posts, even books are just parts of the story.  That is all they can ever be.   

Monday, June 3, 2013

No Lost Irony

The irony is not lost on me of my latest consequence to my almost 13 year old daughter. The end of the year middle school celebration is a trip to Valley Fair, an amusement park full of rides and all other sorts of stimulation in which no one over the age of 20 should be subjected. My daughter does not want to go. 

I know, I know.  Some kids don’t like that sort of thing.  They are nervous in groups or it could get overwhelming. Some kids don’t have that sort of stamina. And blah, blah, blah other reasons. My kid IS NOT one of those. She is very social, has tons of stamina, and has always needed less sleep than anyone I know. 

But something happened this year. She stopped wanting to do group things, whether they were school sponsored or not.  It took a little while for us first time parents of a pre teenager to figure it out.  And by figure it out, I mean to take notice of it. She did a few things, but for the most part she stayed home.  

She is a complicated being and refuses to fit in any box that might help us understand her better. Although she is social and energetic, she often sits on the edge and watches.  She loves being in range of the action, loves to feel the buzz. But she likes to scope it out, watch others, get a good feel for whats going on in the fray. I must remember that she has always been like this.  She didn’t walk until she was 16 months old, but when she did she stood up and walked across the room and never fell. At her earliest Easter egg hunt, she stood and watched all the kids gather eggs rather then get eggs herself.  When she was learning to ski, her favorite part was hanging out in the lodge and watching everyone around her. 

I must remember that she was in the same small campus with the same few kids for seven years and middle school is a new routine, new kids, new campus. So, she has probably just been following her normal mode of operation as she gets acclimated to middle school. 

She is also an extrovert that has an incredible amount of energy that is not easily harnessed. This means that as a young child, she never played with toys but would rather us sit and juggle for her. Her energy is more emotional than physical. She loves to be engaged with people ALL THE TIME. 

When they were little and home all day, we would often do different activities together, like go to a park or go to a zoo or a museum.  When we came home, my other two children and myself would need to decompress, doing our own quiet thing.  My oldest was never able to do this.  She would be so energized by the outside world that when we came home, she had twice as much energy as before. She would go from me, and then to each of the other kids ready to do another major endeavor - write a play, make an obstacle course, wash cars, have a home art show. And we wanted to sit and read or have a quiet snack on the deck and watch how the leaves fell from the tree. 

Friday night, I took her to a friends dance recital that was amazing.  It was two hours of incredible dancing with loud, electrified music.  She wanted to stay afterwards and hand deliver six roses to each of her six friends in the show.  She wanted to congratulate them and inhale the after show excitement. They were all going out for ice cream afterwards and I just didn’t have the energy.  She was disappointed but handled it well and thanked me for taking her. 

I came home to melt into facebook or mindless internet surfing while she started cooking a full dinner at ten pm. She kept asking and wanting to review each piece and I had to pay attention to every move she wanted to try to emulate.  I always feel bad about these moments because I don’t want to deflate her.  I try to find the energy.  Finally I asked her, “Do you know what introverts and extroverts are?” 

She replied, “Yea.  Introverts are bad. And extroverts are good.” 

I smile and wonder if I even have the strength to go there. I try. “Well, no.  Extroverts love going out to events and get energized by all the activity and people around them.  It makes them want to do more.  Introverts can go and enjoy it, but they are recharged by coming home and being quiet and alone.  Thats what gives them more energy.” 

She replies, “Like I said.  Extroverts are better. Of course those things give me energy. And excite me.  Why would anyone want to be alone after something like that?”

I didn’t expect her to get it, but I thought an introduction was appropriate. I just told her the two were different and neither was better.  I asked her just to start noticing the difference. 

School is out this week and I am not ready. Several life changes have taken over the last month and I am not as prepared or, sadly, as excited as I usually am for summer. Yesterday, she needed so much and was so full of energy that it almost brought me to tears wondering how I was going to handle it this summer. 

So, yesterday, she could not entertain herself for longer than 10 minutes without needing me.  And then, when I couldn’t or wouldn’t oblige, the typical mouthiness of a preteen started to take over. After several warnings, I issued my judgement:

You will go to Valley Fair on Tuesday with the school. I need that last day of energy gathering before the launch into summer.

So, no, the irony of my child’s consequence of being forced to go on an all day, end of the year fun celebration to an amusement park is not lost on me.